Prenuptial agreements are a common legal way for individuals to protect their personal financial security and interests before entering into a marriage. However, while many couples get married without getting a prenup, they might later wish for a way to seek individual protections. You can craft and sign a postnuptial agreement with your spouse to fill this legal gap.
A postnuptial agreement can be tailored to the specific needs of your marriage, but it does need to be executed correctly in order to be legally enforceable should the agreement ever need to be used. Learn more about postnuptial agreements and what protections they can offer to married individuals.
First, both spouses signing the agreement must be willing to do so. Prenuptial agreements are legally binding in court because either party has the opportunity to walk away from the contract of marriage.
After you are married, you already have commingled interests and assets, and it’s easier for one person to feel forced into signing an agreement because they are at a disadvantage in the relationship. For example, a stay-at-home spouse might feel like they need to sign an agreement in order to maintain support from a spouse who is working full time.
At the time when the postnuptial agreement is needed, it can be found unenforeable if one spouse can prove that it was not signed with full and knowing willingness.
Postnuptial agreements are not just for protecting financial interests in the event of divorce. They can also help to determine spousal responsibilities or expectations for the marriage relationship.
One spouse, for instance, might have a vested interest in continuing education. One provision of the agreement might be that their partner support their spouse in educational pursuits. Other couples might find comfort in having specific financial responsibilities spelled out that eliminate arguments about spending or investing differences.
A postnuptial agreement might also function to provide instructions for special circumstances. For example, it might outline expectations for what a spouse might do if their partner becomes severely disabled.
You might decide that separation in the event of a tragedy is acceptable to both of you, as long as medical care is still provided. Knowing what each person expects ahead of time can eliminate feelings of guilt or pressure if such tragic situations should occur and allow healthy spouses to move on to other fulfilling relationships.
Individuals in marriage can find some peace in having specific interests protected by the contract of a postnuptial agreement, especially if those interests might have been a source of conflict in the past.
One of the most important features of a postnuptial agreement (and something that sets it apart from a prenuptial agreement) is protecting community property. Washington is a community property state, which means that all property or assets acquired after the marriage date are held jointly between the husband and wife.
Postnuptial agreements can help to distinguish items that would otherwise be considered community property, and this can be important for some situations.
For example, if one person inherits a house from a family member, that house might be joint property in the marriage. To keep ownership of the house contained to one spouse, the postnuptial agreement will protect that property from being commingled.
Setting some assets apart from community property can protect both spouses. In the case with the inherited house, one spouse has the title, but the other spouse is protected from the property expenses, taxes, and liability that can come from owning that property.
Provisions for Death and Assets
Finally, postnuptial agreements can be essential for diverting assets away from the surviving spouse in the event of untimely death. Normally, all assets that belonged to the marriage transfer to the living individual.
However, some couples might want specific assets to be transferred to children, other relatives, or friends. For example, an inherited property from a parent might be given to a surviving sibling instead of a surviving spouse. Without the agreement, all the property held in common in the marriage will likely be dispersed at the discretion of the surviving partner.
A postnuptial agreement can be a benefit for marriage. Contact us at Madison Law Firm, PLLC, for more information.